Authority ‘very concerned’ about further coral decline on Great Barrier Reef


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The authority for the Great Barrier Reef say coral decline is worse than first thought. IMAGE: Supplied.

THE Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority says it is ‘very concerned’ after revealing data which shows coral decline on the reef is worse than first thought.

Aerial and in-water surveys have confirmed a pronounced degree of coral bleaching from north to south, according to park authority.

The most severe mortality was confined to the area north of Port Douglas, where an estimated 70 per cent of shallow water corals died and there was significant variability between and within reefs.
They say an estimated 29 per cent of shallow water corals died from bleaching in 2016. This up from the original estimated 22 per cent in mid-2016, with most mortality occurring in the north of the Reef.

GBRMPA Chairman Russell Reichelt said ongoing and future climate impacts were worrying.

“As has been the case with reefs across the world, the Great Barrier Reef has experienced significant and widespread impacts over the last two years,” he said.

“We’re very concerned about what this means for the Great Barrier Reef itself and what it means for the communities and industries that depend on it.

“The amount of coral that died from bleaching in 2016 is up from our original estimates and, at this stage, although reports are still being finalised, it’s expected we’ll also see an overall further coral cover decline by the end of 2017.”

Reichelt said they expected further coral loss this year from the second consecutive year of bleaching and the impacts of tropical cyclone Debbie.

This is in addition to ongoing impacts from crown-of-thorns starfish, coral disease and poor water quality from coastal run-off.

The 2017 pattern of bleaching was similar to 2016, but most severe in the centre of the Reef between Cairns and Townsville. Ongoing thermal stress is also causing elevated coral disease. 

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